HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 review: Upgraded CPU and GPU, but screen options and battery life disappoint

HP continues to name its sleekest and most portable laptops after flying insects. The 13.3-inch Elite Dragonfly 2-in-1 convertible recently saw an impressive G2 upgrade, and now HP has updated the 14-inch ZBook Firefly, which is a little heavier but also provides more heavyweight performance as the “smallest and lightest” of the company’s Z-series of mobile workstations. 

In many ways, the ZBook Firefly 14 G8 is a conventional 14-inch laptop, lacking the convertible design and 4K display of the Dragonfly G2. However, it does provide genuine workstation-class performance in a slim and light design that will appeal to content creators, architects and other professional users. 

Design & features

This 8th-generation (G8) update is essentially a ‘speed bump’ that introduces Intel’s latest (11th generation) processors and Nvidia’s T500 GPU to the range.  

The basic design hasn’t changed since the G7 version that we reviewed earlier this year, measuring 323mm wide by 21.5mm deep by 17.9mm thick, and weighing just 1.4kg. The build quality remains impressive too, with the Firefly’s sturdy — and recycled — aluminium casing meeting the military-grade MIL-STD-810H standard for resistance to heat, shock and humidity. That rugged design might be overkill for the Adobe Creative Cloud users that HP highlights on its website, but it will be welcomed by architects or engineers who need to visit building sites and other outdoor locations. 

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The 14-inch ZBook Firefly 14 G8 runs on 11th-generation Core i5 or i7 processors with up to 32GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage. It can use CPU-integrated Iris Xe graphics or a discrete Nvidia T500 GPU with 4GB of video RAM. The chassis is MIL-STD-810H certified.


Images: HP Inc

The keyboard feels firm and comfortable too, with a row of navigation keys on the far right, and a fingerprint sensor just below that. HP gets a little carried away with the trackpad features, though. As you’d expect, you can right-click by tapping with two fingers, but there are also left/right buttons in the lower corners of the trackpad, as well as two separate physical buttons above the trackpad itself, and even a pointing stick located on the main keyboard. 

Like its predecessor, the Firefly G8 has two USB 3.1 ports on the left-hand side, although the two USB-C ports over on the right have been upgraded to support Thunderbolt 4. There’s an HDMI port on that side too, which you’ll probably need for an external monitor, given the Firefly’s modest built-in display. There’s no Ethernet port, so you’ll need an adapter if you need a wired connection in an office. 

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Oddly, this G8 version of the ZBook Firefly currently lacks the 4K display option that was available with its predecessor. Our review unit had a non-touch IPS display with standard FHD (1920 x 1080, 157.3dpi) resolution, which was vivid and colourful, thanks to its impressive 1000 nits brightness, aided by a welcome anti-glare coating for outdoor use. It also boasts HP’s SureView privacy mode that’s designed to combat ‘visual hacking’ (someone looking over your shoulder) by sharply limiting the display’s viewing angles. Mind you, the viewing angles aren’t great even with SureView turned off, so the Firefly might not be the best option for giving presentations where you do want other people to be able to see the screen. 

Another oddity is that the display on our review unit only supported 72% of the NTSC colour gamut. There are other display options available that support touch and the sRGB and DCI-P3 colour standards for graphics and video work, but these all share the same 1080p resolution. There is a separate 15.6-inch version of the Firefly that offers a 4K option — but, of course, this is larger, heavier and more expensive, which will be a disappointment for users who are attracted to the highly portable design of this 14-inch model. 

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Right side (top): power connector; HDMI 1.4b; 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4. Left side (above): headphone/microphone combo; 2x USB 3.1.


Images: HP Inc

Price & options

The pricing situation for the ZBook Firefly G8 is a little complicated too, with differing specifications and customisation options available in the UK and US. 

Pricing in the UK starts at £1,169 (ex. VAT; £1,402.80 inc. VAT) for a Firefly G8 running Windows 10 Pro 64, with a quad-core Core i7-1165G7 processor running at 2.8GHz (up to 4.7GHz with TurboBoost). That price also includes 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and discrete Nvidia T500 graphics with 4GB of dedicated video memory. The 1080p display for that model is quite modest, though, with only 250 nits brightness and 45% of the NTSC colour gamut. Our review unit stepped up to 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD and, as noted, the display supported 72% of NTSC with 1000 nits brightness, bringing the total price to £1,389 (ex. VAT; £1,666.80 inc. VAT). 

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Customers in the US seem to face slightly higher pricing, with the entry-level Firefly G8 costing $1,889 while using a more modest Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and Nvidia’s T500 GPU. After that, the US version of the Firefly G8 skips past its UK counterpart, opting for a slightly faster Core i7-1185G7 processor (3.0GHz, with TurboBoost to 4.8GHz) with 32GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, costing $2,489. There are a variety of customisation options available, although it remains puzzling that the multiple display options are all limited to just 1080p resolution. 

Performance & battery life

The ZBook Firefly G8’s performance confirms its position as HP’s entry-level mobile workstation for 2D and technical design work. It has the same Core i7 processor as the lightweight Dragonfly convertible, with the Dragonfly producing Geekbench 5 scores of 1565 for single-core performance and 4330 for multi-core. The ZBook Firefly G8 springs no surprises with a single-core score of 1,590, but comfortably eases into the lead with a score of 5,450 for multi-core performance.  

The integrated Iris Xe GPU of the Dragonfly was no slouch when it came to graphics, achieving a score of 85fps in the Cinebench R15 OpenGL graphics benchmark, and 16fps for the more demanding Unigine Valley 3D tests. However, the Firefly G8’s discrete Nvidia T500 GPU jumps right ahead to 165fps on the Cinebench test. Its performance with the heavy-duty Valley benchmark doesn’t improve quite so dramatically, though, nudging only slightly ahead to 19fps. This confirms that the ZBook Firefly is best suited to 2D graphics and more basic 3D work. 

The Firefly G8’s Core i7 processor does also have its own integrated Iris Xe GPU, of course, and this allows you to switch between integrated and discrete graphics as required. Using the Iris Xe in our tests still allowed the Firefly to post a respectable 95fps in Cinebench and 16fps in Valley, so you could use the integrated graphics for more routine tasks in order to preserve battery life. 

That might be necessary too, as the Firefly’s battery life was not impressive — especially for a laptop with a modest FHD-resolution display. Using Wi-Fi to stream video continuously — with integrated graphics selected, and brightness at 50% — the Firefly lasted just 7.5 hours, which is close to a full day’s work, but hardly outstanding for a modern laptop. We’ve seen reviews of Firefly models with 250 nits displays, which recorded better battery life, so the 1000 nits of our review unit seems to come at a cost, even when lowered slightly during our battery tests. 

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Image: HP Inc

Conclusions

HP’s ZBook Firefly G8 is something of a mixed bag. It’s a reasonably priced entry-level mobile workstation that offers strong performance for content creation, 2D graphics and technical design work, wrapped up in a lightweight but sturdy design. However, the limited display options seem rather short-sighted for such a powerful laptop, and the battery life certainly leaves room for improvement. Professional users who work outdoors all day long might prefer a laptop with more robust battery life, but the Firefly G8 will still be a good option for office use, working from home, and occasional visits to off-site locations.

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